Form Or Functionality? Fleksy Redesigns & Rewires The Android Keyboard
Techies love minimalistic design in their gadgetry. And recently, we have seen Minuum take this fascination to the Android keyboard. Fleksy is yet another keyboard app that offers stark minimalism and a slicker-looking layout than the default.
Fleksy was originally developed as an iOS keyboard for the visually impaired, but the new version for Android ditches that to focus on being a beautiful alternative to the likes of SwiftKey and Swype.
Bringing Gestures To Keyboards
There’s no doubt about the fact that Fleksy is gorgeous. I compare it directly with SwiftKey, Swype and the stock Android keyboard since those are three of the most popular keyboard apps, and Fleksy’s typography as well as spacing makes it the clear winner in the looks department.
A big reason for this is the lack of buttons. Fleksy is a gesture-based keyboard and so does not need most of the buttons you would normally find on a keyboard. For example, swiping left will delete the previous word, reducing the need for a backspace key. Swiping right acts as a spacebar and accepts the first autocorrect suggestion. If you’re unhappy with the autocorrect, you can swipe down to cycle through the other suggestions, or swipe up to use the word you typed. Swipe right again to add punctuation. Because of these gestures, Fleksy can function as a three-line keyboard consisting only letters. You can swipe up with two fingers to bring a fourth row with additional keys like backspace (to delete single characters), Shift, spacebar, numbers/symbols and Enter.
And despite all this swiping, Fleksy does not support swipe-to-type like Swype or Swiftkey Flow!
The settings menu lets you choose three views for the keyboard (original, small and tiny) and switch between dark and light themes. And in the ultimate in minimalism, there’s also an “invisible keyboard” option which displays only the aforementioned fourth row with a shadow-pane above it on which you can blind-type. This would be for really advanced users though, as even after having used Android keyboards for years now, I couldn’t get the hang of it.
Form Over Functionality
Despite its great looks, there’s one question that keeps bothering me about Flesky: do keyboards really need to be minimalistic? We have already sacrificed the comfort of a physical keyboard and gone in with a virtual one, and this just makes input even more difficult. In my opinion, one of the reasons touchscreens are not great productivity tools is because the input mechanism for text is not that good. Fleksy just makes it even harder to write by putting form over functionality.
For instance, you can long-press on any key to activate a symbol, much like any other virtual keyboard. But in Fleksy, you can’t see the symbol mapped to a key. To maintain a ‘clean’ look, Fleksy has sacrificed this core functionality and so you find yourself hitting the numbers/symbols key and choosing the symbol, then going back to the alphabet keyboard—three taps where otherwise it would have been one.
In terms of performance and features, I pitted Fleksy against some of the best Android keyboards :
Fleksy vs. Swype
- Autocorrect: Swype > Fleksy
- Swipe to type: Swype > Fleksy
- Design: Fleksy > Swype
- Language Support: Swype > Fleksy
- Customizability: Fleksy > Swype
- Winner: Swype (3-2)
Fleksy vs. Swiftkey
- Autocorrect: Swiftkey > Fleksy
- Swipe to type: Swiftkey > Fleksy
- Design: Fleksy > Swype
- Language Support: Swiftkey > Fleksy
- Customizability: Swiftkey > Fleksy
- Winner: Swiftkey (4-1)
Fleksy vs. Stock Android
- Autocorrect: Android > Fleksy
- Swipe to type: Android > Fleksy
- Design: Fleksy > Android
- Language Support: Android > Fleksy
- Customizability: Fleksy > Android
- Winner: Android (3-2)
Is Fleksy For You?
As you can see, Swiftkey, Swype and the default Android keyboard all score over Fleksy in functionality, but Fleksy is definitely better looking. Keyboards aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs .
Since Fleksy is free for a month, there’s no harm in giving it a try. But I won’t be spending any money on this one when options like Swiftkey and Swype are available.
What’s Important In A Keyboard?
I realise not everyone shares my vision of “functionality over form”, so I’m curious to know what matters to you when it comes to a good keyboard. What are the core features you look for? How important is design? Is there something you want which no keyboard offers? That’s what the comments space is for!